Surviving with strength and support
Jennie had always been diligent about her health, getting regular checkups and screenings, as well as seeking appropriate consultations with her physicians
when something "didn’t feel right."
So, in 2003, when severe pelvic pain resulted in a trip to the emergency room, she was understandably concerned, yet optimistic that it was nothing too
Unfortunately, this time, she was wrong.
The CT scan and ultrasound revealed a mass. Results from a blood test indicated ovarian cancer. The only way to make a definitive diagnosis was through
surgery -- in her case, a complete hysterectomy/oophorectomy. "I went into the surgery thinking that [ovarian cancer] was a possibility, but there was a
big part of me that thought 'It’s probably just a cyst,'" Jennie explained.
In the years prior to this surgery, she'd had three suspicious breast lumps removed - all were benign cysts.
Hours later, Jennie woke up in recovery, surrounded by her family: her husband, Duke; her parents; her sister Connie; and Rich, one of her three brothers.
It was Duke who delivered the bad news - she had cancer.
"I was dumbstruck," explained Jennie. "I remember blurting out, 'What the heck did I do wrong?' It felt like I hadn’t taken care of myself like I should have.
Of course, that's not in the least bit true, but that’s definitely what I felt like."
She still tears up remembering the conviction in her brother's voice when he looked at her and said, "It will be all right." And in that moment, she truly
"All of my family, especially my husband, supported me in a huge way. But Rich's deep assurance that it would be all right was exactly what I needed to hear
in that moment," said Jennie.
As fate would have it, she would continue to need that support, as the cancer would return four more times, with the last reoccurrence in 2010.
In addition to her family, Jennie credits her physician, Dr. Thomas Reid, medical director of the Kettering Cancer Center multi-disciplinary surgical clinics,
for guiding her through all of the grueling treatments to heal her body. She appreciates that he saw her as "a whole person" and understood her need to heal
mentally and spiritually, as well.
"Cancer is a chronic condition," explained Jennie. "The treatments eventually come to an end, but we live with the after-effects forever."
In 2014, Jennie was asked to join the patient advisory council for the Kettering Cancer Center being built on the campus of Kettering Medical Center. The
center is designed by patients, for patients, and is intended to provide the most advanced patient-centered care in an environment that focuses on healing
the whole person - body, mind and spirit... something with which Jennie was familiar.
The 30-member council, made up of cancer patients, their families and physicians, has met regularly to advise Kettering Health Network on everything from
building and interior design, to furniture and food selections. They’ve helped in the creation of amenities like a café that focuses on the nutritional needs
and tastes of cancer patients, complimentary holistic medicines such as medical massage, and a boutique that offers post-surgical apparel and products.
"They asked and really listened," said Jennie. "When we saw the plans and that they were really trying to integrate what we talked about, it was incredible."
It wasn't just patients who were the motivation behind the designs, but the families, as well.
"We thought about what would make it easier for family and caregivers," explained Jennie. "The patient has the disease, but the whole family goes through it."
Upon its opening this December, the Kettering Cancer Center will serve as a single touchpoint, providing a wide range of services to help both patients and
families navigate the journey through cancer diagnosis, treatment, and healing.
"I’ve been proud to be a part of a community that actually listened to patients to make the cancer experience as pleasant as possible," said Jennie.